Spinning a new Ian Svenonius album these days is a bit like stopping at a Starbucks in a strange city: You may not have actually tried a latte at that particular shop before, but you already know what it's going to taste like. And for many old Svenonius followers, this sort of predictability is a decidedly good thing. "The formula's not broken," Ian and his ever-rotating cast of co-conspirators seem to be echoing. "So why fix it?"
Fair enough, and it's true that there's something inherently amusing about Svenonius' James Brown wah-wah lyricism, to say nothing of his polemic political rants about the CIA and the FBI. But on Weird War's second full-length, If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em, the whole psych-pop, dance-party vibe feels just a little uninspired.
To be fair, a few tracks do carry the spark of honest enthusiasm, especially "Store Bought Pot" and "Chemical Rank," two psychedelic, call-and-response party tunes, with just enough of Svenonius' moaning vocal swagger to make them danceable.
The overwhelming majority of If You Can't Beat 'Em, though, reeks a bit too much of simply going through the motions. We get it, already: You're an anti-government operative, tirelessly battling against the oppression of digital technology. Or something. But by the sound of it, you're also running out of steam. Hey, after 15 years and who knows how many records, that's hardly a bad thing. Nor is Weird War's sophomore effort hardly a bad record -- it's simply an old formula that hits a bit below the bar.